Why E-Books Are Not MP3s

One of the things I get asked a lot is “I bought the print version of your book; can I get the e-book version for free?”

I get the thinking behind this. Companies are now regularly offering free MP3s when you buy a CD. Pick up a DVD or Blu-Ray movie and you also often get the digital version. Amazon also offers reduced price audiobooks and reduced price or free Kindle books when you buy a print book (Barnes & Noble, interestingly, doesn’t).

On the face of it, it makes sense. Hey, I get a free digital movie or album when I get the firmware; why can’t I get a free e-book? Well, there are a couple things going on, and some things specific to my books, which are not immediately obvious. So I’ll try to explain them here so I have something to point at when I get this question in the future.

First off, Amazon, because it is a huge company and owns the Kindle store and Audible.com, can do things like offer a free or reduced-price Kindle book or audiobook when you buy the print version. At the scale they operate, they can afford to make tiny amounts or even lose tiny amounts if it means they bring in more business. It’s telling that Barnes & Noble doesn’t offer free e-books with purchase (at least not as far as I could tell from a quick scan of the store and some of their most popular books, and I haven’t seen that deal offered to NOOK store publishers as I have on the Kindle store).

But my print books are published through Sofawolf and FurPlanet; my e-books are created and published by me. Neither one of us has the business model and volume that Amazon does, where we can afford to give away products whose revenue we depend on just for the promise of increased future business.

And the second point that people often overlook is that e-books are not the same as MP3s or digital movies. Creating an e-book is not as easy as pushing a button in InDesign and coming up with a fully formatted e-book. It usually takes me about ten hours of work to put together an e-book (in both Kindle and ePub editions), in addition to which I pay the artists separately for the license to the digital work. That money isn’t covered by the print publishers. On top of that, I stay of top of the stores and the books, make corrections when needed, respond when people have issues with them, and so on.

The e-book I made for Red Devil includes the fonts used in the print version to set off the sections. I had to learn how to embed fonts in e-books and do a not-insignificant amount of coding to get them to work. It makes for a better e-book, I think, and it was worth the work. It was also worth it to pay Rukis the additional licensing to be allowed to use the images in the e-book. I hope you guys think so, too.

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